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5 important reminders for dental health

The week of August 2-8 is Dental Health Week, and the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is encouraging all Australians to “keep your smile for life.”

The message is simple: look after your teeth, and they will look after you.

Read on for 5 tips to keep in mind for healthier teeth. 

In recognition of this important aspect of our health, we asked the ADA to share a few tips for better oral health.

1.     Technique matters…

It’s not just important that you brush – it’s important how you brush. According to the ADA, you “should clean your teeth systematically, starting at the back with the toothbrush bristle at the gumline or at a 45° angle, brushing gently in a circular motion, and finishing with a spit, not a rinse. If you have an electric toothbrush, you should be guiding the moving brush head slowly from tooth to tooth following the contours of the tooth and the curve of the gums.” 

2.     …as does duration and frequency 

When life gets busy, it’s easy to rush (or even skip) a toothbrushing session, but to get the most out of brushing your teeth, the ADA recommends “brushing for at least two minutes morning and night, spending roughly 30 seconds on each quarter of your mouth.”

3.     Choose the right brush 

A soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head and flexible neck will do the best job of removing plaque and debris without damaging your teeth and gums (and thus drawing blood). The ADA adds: “Try to replace your brush at the first sign of wear and tear, or every three months – whichever comes first.”

4.     Flossing is critical

Nearly half the surface area of your teeth lies between them. So, if you’re only brushing, you’re really only doing half of the job. The ADA provides the following tips for proper flossing:

Tip 1: Wind about 45cm of floss around your middle fingers and rest it across your thumbs and index fingers.

Tip 2: Use a gentle up-and-down motion that goes down one side of the tooth, just under the little collar of gum and then back up the other side (think of it as an on-the-side “c”).

Tip 3: If you’re not sure about the right technique, have a chat with your dentist who can show you all the right flossing moves.  

5.     Know the lifestyle risks 

There are three lifestyle factors in particular that impact oral health: 

  • Smoking: This is the biggest one. Aside from the cosmetic factors of stained and discoloured teeth, smoking is, according to the ADA, “linked to decrease of blood flow to teeth and gums, bone shrinkage, teeth loss, and inhibiting production of the right kind of saliva.” Additionally, oral cancer is nine times as likely to occur in smokers than non-smokers.
  • Alcohol: Excess alcohol consumption also leads to a heightened risk of oral cancer. Furthermore, says the ADA, “the sugar and acidity of alcohol are major contributors to teeth erosion.” Alcohol also dehydrates you, which affects how much saliva your mouth produces. Drinking lots of water and limiting the amount of drinks you consume is recommended.
  • Stress: Unfortunately, stress is an unavoidable part of life for most. However, it’s worth understanding that stress can be a contributing factor to oral health problems. The ADA says it can lead to, “mouth ulcers and cold sores, grinding and clenching of teeth which you may not even notice taking place, and at worst, temporomandibular disorders (TMJD), a painful condition affecting the hinge that connects your jaw to your skull.”